On Saturday 25th of October, I laid the ultimate stone on a low sloping wall on the new terrace of my caseta. I laid the first on 20th March 2010, nearly five years before. It’s been a long haul. Like Sisyphus, I thought it would never end, and at times, like a quitter, I felt like walking away from the whole thing. So how did I feel when I laid that last little stone? Bathos. Do you remember finishing exams at school or whatever? For weeks you studied and crammed, hardly sparing the time to dream of what you would do when it was all over. Then it was all over and you were at a loss for something to do. Swatting had become your life. Building with stone became mine, so laying that last stone produced a strange sense of loss.
Though it was hard work and often quite boring, there was a sense of progress. At the end of a week the wall had grown a little, another corner stone could be added, maybe the gap between the two halves of the wall could be backfilled with concrete. It has been frustrating at times: the search for the right stone, the careful shaping of a stone to fit into “the jigsaw with no solution” followed by that final smack with the hammer that disintegrated the thing, the amazing tendency for stones to align with those below rather than bond. But there was also a sense of creation. I could see where I had been and, overlooking a few mistakes, there was no going back.
There were times when did feel like giving the whole thing up, but a spell in the UK usually cured that: I came back with the enthusiasm of an absentee returned. I clearly remember finishing the first, the south, wall up to terrace height and feeling rather pleased with myself, then I turned to the north and realised with a sinking heart that I had to do it all again. And when I finished that I had to do the west wall before I could install joists and lay the concrete terrace floor upon them and the walls. And that was not the end I had to build the terrace walls and the little casita above to house batteries and tanks and stuff. The end seemed unreachable. Yet I have reached it – though there is still lost of other work to be done on the project, I have finished stone work.
Skill is an acquired thing, though some people build on an innate ability. You can look at someone plastering a wall, or engraving a glass, or making a pot, or playing a guitar, and think, “I wish I could do that”. And of course you could, but it would take many years of practice to be really good at it. I have served my apprenticeship in stone walling – but would only rank myself as semi-skilled. I currently have a good eye for a required stone and a reasonable feel for the nature of stones: crumbly, workable, fracture prone, brittle, etc. However, those abilities will soon fade if I do not exercise them. What will remain is the stone caseta, or at least I certainly hope it will.
Whilst every cloud might have a silver lining, the satisfaction of completing my stone work has been marred. A few days afterwards, I was burgled again. It happened during my lunch break, a mere hour and half. Fortunately, and most strangely, they only stole petrol (worth less that 20 Euros), ignoring my drill and angle grinder which were both nearby. They made a fearful mess smashing in the door and, most galling, they made short shrift of my clever security mechanism – back to the drawing board.
Stunned and vengeful, I called in the Guardia Civil who were about as much help as a turnip in a training college. Constantly fingering their guns as if the thief might be nearby, and grinning as if at some secret joke they both shared, they told me that I must go to the station and make a report. I said, “That is what I am doing, I am making a report to you”. But they could do nothing they said, for all they knew an animal might have committed the crime or I might have done it myself. “You must make a report,” they reiterated. “And then what?” I asked, exasperated. They seemed confused by this question, as if the answer was too obvious for words. They left, fingering their revolvers and grinning.